How This Company Is Using a Dedicated Mentorship Program to Elevate Women Into Leadership Roles

Sponsored by Publicis Sapient

Lisa Mahoney (mentor) and Damanpreet Batra (mentee)

Photos courtesy of Publicis Sapient.

Profile Picture

For every 100 men promoted to manager, only 86 women are promoted.1 And, as of 2021, only 41 Fortune 500 CEOs and 14% of U.S. startup CEOs were female.2

To combat this trend, organizations like Publicis Sapient are investing in women-focused mentorship programs that provide one-on-one coaching, team learning development opportunities and additional resources for rising women leaders. 

Publicis Sapient’s Women’s Leadership Network (WLN) Mentorship Program was launched in August 2020 by the organization’s WLN business resource group to support the retention and advancement of women leaders. Starting with Managers and above, the pilot program focused on select cities in North America; however, due to its success, it expanded to cities across the continent within one year. 

At its core, the purpose of this program is to grow and nurture future leaders by tapping into the collective wisdom, experience and insights of high-performing women leaders and male allies. 82% of program participants feel like the mentorship program is helping them navigate the challenging COVID-19 times. And, not only is this program helping women navigate their experiences at Publicis Sapient, but it’s also cultivating collective empathy throughout the organization for the issues women face in the workplace. 

Publicis Sapient continues to invest in women’s growth at the company with RISE — Redefine, Inspire, Strengthen, Elevate — the company’s new ongoing, multi-year commitment to nurture and develop women. One of the core components of RISE will be the expanded WLN Mentorship Program. 

To learn more about the WLN Mentorship Program, as well as advice for taking mentorship to the next level, we spoke with mentor/mentee pair Lisa Mahoney (mentor) and Damanpreet Batra (mentee), both Senior Managers, Program Management. Mahoney is a Program Manager in the Public Sector group and leads projects that support various federal entities and the teams that support the National Archives and Records Administration.. Batra, meanwhile, is the Program Lead on two accounts within the Transportation & Mobility vertical.

Here’s what they had to say…

What made you decide to join the Women’s Leadership Network Mentorship Program?

Mahoney (mentor): I joined the program because I wanted the opportunity to connect with and support other women. I believe everyone deserves a support system, a cheerleader and a safe space where you can speak about things you might feel uncomfortable addressing with your team lead or people manager.

Batra (mentee): I thought this was a great opportunity for me to learn and grow from others’ experiences. It was a safe space to have an open conversation and hear others’ points of view. It was a forum to learn from the senior leaders within the organization directly, which does not happen very often. It was also a platform to ask questions directly and talk about things openly on matters that affect almost everyone’s day-to-day work and personal lives.

How has the Women’s Leadership Network Mentorship Program benefited you?

Mahoney (mentor): As a mentor, I think it’s important to remember that there are opportunities in this relationship for you to grow and learn as well. 

One of the greatest things I learned as Daman’s mentor is how to continue to be a self-advocate. I can sometimes get lost in supporting other people, and I forget about myself. The conversations with Daman and seeing how she is able to self-advocate while continuing to support her team have really helped me see where I can improve.

Batra (mentee): I’ve learned a lot and taken a lot of good lessons, tips and tricks from the meetings, conversations and sessions we’ve had. I was very fortunate to be paired with Lisa as my mentor. She’s a great human being and always took the time to listen and provide guidance. The bond we developed was special. I knew I could openly discuss any issue with her and she’d patiently listen, ask questions and then give a neutral and unbiased opinion on that matter. There have been many times I reached out to her late in the evening to discuss an urgent matter, and no matter how busy she was, she would meet with me. 

One of the big takeaways for me was “getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.” It’s not easy and takes practice, but it’s something that I’m trying to improve on. 

How do you approach your mentorship relationship differently from your relationship with your own manager or direct reports?

Mahoney (mentor): I’ve found the mentorship relationship to be less formal than the relationship with my manager and direct reports. We chat more about our personal lives and can vent about work and team-related items — which you would have to be more careful doing in the manager and direct report relationship. I feel like my guard is down in this mentor/mentee relationship, and we both come into it open to learning from each other, whichever role you have in the relationship. 

Batra (mentee): I feel mentorship is a very safe space to have any conversation, knowing that you won’t be judged in any way and it won’t negatively impact you because it’s (hopefully) outside your core account and project circle. 

What advice do you have for mentees and/or mentors on how to make the best of this relationship?

Mahoney (mentor): My advice is to go into the relationship with an open mind. You never know how it will evolve — get to know each other and be open with each other. And, honestly, if after some time, you don’t feel like the relationship is working or comfortable for you, see if you can find an alternative. I feel like a mentor is someone you should feel comfortable with, and if you aren’t able to be open and honest, you may not be getting what you need out of the relationship. 

Batra (mentee): It’s important to try to get to know each other first, develop a good relationship and bond with your mentor or mentee. Have non-work-related conversations to connect with each other. It really helps set the foundation and establish the trust and honesty needed for the relationship to work. Remember, it should be a two-way relationship.

As the mentee, think about areas or topics you would like to seek input on. This is a great platform to get input on things that matter to you and/or you need consultation or support on.

Do you feel like your mentor or mentee experience has been reflective of the overall culture at your company?

Mahoney (mentor): Yes. When I think of PS culture, I think of words like open and supportive. Those align with a good mentor/mentee relationship — and have aligned with my mentorship experiences at PS.

Batra (mentee): Absolutely! Culture is one of the core strengths of this company. The mentor/mentee relationship embodies our values of “Learning Mindset,” “Inclusive Collaboration” and “Engaging with Openness.”

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Mahoney (mentor): I appreciate the emphasis PS is putting on mentorship. A lot of people have felt isolated, stressed and overwhelmed over the past couple years and providing an opportunity for cultivating supportive relationships is a huge positive. It’s been such a valuable experience just knowing I have someone like Daman available and in my corner. 

Batra (mentee): I want to sincerely thank the Women’s Leadership Network Mentorship Program team, who have tirelessly worked to put together and execute this program. 

I would also say it’s very important to make sure the pairing of mentor and mentee is done critically to ensure the relationship allows room for nurturing and free dialogue to happen.

McKinsey & Company, “Women in the Workplace 2021,” September 27, 2021

Quantic, “How Many Fortune 500 CEOs Are Women? And Why So Few?” December 6, 2021

Fairygodboss is proud to partner with Publicis Sapient. Find a job there today!